How to Win at Sports Parenting
By Matthew Arnold Stern
What exactly is a "sports parent"? Where
we live in South Orange County, California, most of us have been "sports
parents" for at least a short time. Who hasn't brought the post-game Capri Sun
drinks and Oreo packages?
We get our kids involved in sports for different reasons. Some of us want to
pry our kids away from the TV and video game console for a while and get some
exercise. Some of us want our kids to learn how to work well with others and
handle competition. Some of us see talent in our children and want to develop
it. But all of us want our kids to enjoy the benefits of sports and avoid the
youth sports horror stories we often hear in the news.
Jim and Janet
Sundberg's book may be called How to Win at Sports Parenting, but it is
really about winning as a parent overall. It could apply just as well to any
endeavor a child pursues, whether it is dance, Scouting, or school. The book is
clearly written, offers sound advice, and forces us to look at our behavior
without judging too harshly.
For starters, the book describes how our behavior
from the stands can benefit or hurt children. We may not be conscious of how our
children perceive our game-day behavior. (We may not be even conscious of it
ourselves.) But our children are affected by what we say or do, even if we say
nothing. After reading one section, my son told me that my loud cheering
distracted him when he played. I will be more careful not to do that next time.
The book shows that the key to success with children is building the right type
of communication. Here too, we parents aren't always aware of the effect our
words have on our children. We may think our post-game critiques benefit them,
when it may actually make them feel discouraged and self-doubting. As parents,
we need to let our children know that we love them unconditionally, whether they
win or lose. We also need to develop more open communication with our children.
The book also encourages us parents to take a more balanced approach to sports.
It warns against living vicariously through our children's sports successes and
that we should look at the coach's perspective before we chew him or her out for
not giving our child enough play time.
Whether you are shuttling your children to baseball or choir practice, this
book can help you relate to them better, be aware of behaviors that can help or
hurt them, and improve your communication with them. When we can do that, we can
win at parenting – both on and off the field.
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